A truck propagating the prevention of COVID-19 is seen here driving  through the streets of Idlib, Syria, on April 29, 2020 | Photo: EPA/YAHYA NEMAH
A truck propagating the prevention of COVID-19 is seen here driving through the streets of Idlib, Syria, on April 29, 2020 | Photo: EPA/YAHYA NEMAH

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has urged donors from around the world to support the vital needs of some 3 million Syrians suffering under the global coronavirus pandemic after nearly a decade of civil war. Roughly 1.3 million Syrians are considered to have been internally displaced this year alone, while 1.7 million are freshly registering are refugees abroad.

Syria entered its tenth year of conflict in March, but almost a decade after the so-called Arab Spring, the war-torn country is finding itself confronted with another looming threat. The COVID-19 pandemic compounds an already devastating crisis that has left 11 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, the IOM said in a statement. 

The UN agency said it is calling "for solidarity from donors worldwide to support vital needs" of some 3 million people, recently hit by tragedy. The IOM hopes to secures over $200 million in aid for Syria. Of the total amount, $33 million will be allocated to "efforts aimed at mitigating the impact of COVID-19."

IOM working on long-term recovery plan

The IOM said that the first three months of 2020 saw an alarming rise in hostility in the northwest Syrian province of Idlib, freshly displacing nearly 1.2 million people. An estimated total 6.6 million Syrians are internally displaced across the entire country, and over 5.6 million remain as refugees in neighboring countries alone, according to the agency. 

"We must be prepared to respond to the threat COVID-19 poses on communities who already struggle to overcome the perils of conflict and displacement," said IOM Director-General Antonio Vitorino. "IOM is now expanding its ongoing response to communities in dire need while taking action to prevent transmission of the disease, limit the socioeconomic effects on people's lives and help communities prepare for longer-term recovery." 

Read more: Syrian refugees in Lebanon more scared of starvation than COVID-19

High infection risk for displaced people

IOM further stressed that, although the Syrian government had not reported any cases of the novel coronavirus in the northwest of the country as of May 27, the health and safety of more than one million individuals living in tents in overcrowded, under-resourced sites there were of serious concern. 

In neighbouring countries like Jordan  a potential spread of the disease to refugee and host communities, who often live in dense urban areas, could further inhibit their ability to access sustainable employment, health care, housing and other basic needs. 

Since 2011, IOM has provided life-saving assistance and early-recovery and resilience programmes to millions of conflict-affected people in Syria and across the region "The success of interventions intended to save lives and keep the disease at bay will only be possible if humanitarian access is guaranteed and violence inside Syria ceases," said Director-General Vitorino.

"The prolongation of the current ceasefire in the northwest and continuation of humanitarian aid in that region of Syria will be essential for the foreseeable future. We need to make sure the most vulnerable continue to access this vital lifeline.

Read more: EASO warns of uptick in migration in response to COVID-19 crisis


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